January, 2011
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Trust Your Intuition: Listen to Your Inner Voice


Have you ever heard a little voice telling you about things to  watch for or reminding you of something you should do? I’m not talking about a voice that appears to be coming from a dog or out of your boxwood hedges. That’s a matter for a therapist, not a home inspector. I’m talking about the little inner voices that speak to us without reflection or conscious thought. Call it intuition (or common sense). As home inspectors, we’re subjected to hazards daily and need to be able to recognize that voice as a valuable resource. Here’s an example of what can happen when that inner voice is brushed aside (overridden) during an inspection.

I was at the point in my inspection when I remove the electrical panel cover. I took all of the precautions I’d been taught, including checking the panel to see if it was energized. All was in order, so I proceeded to remove the panel cover. I have a set routine for a six-screw panel cover, and, for the most part, I followed it that day. First, I tighten the middle right screw, then I remove all of the others, leaving the tightened one for last. Holding the cover in place with my left hand, I remove the last screw with my right hand and carefully remove the cover using both hands. I place the cover on the ground, out of the way, and proceed with the inspection. I greatly respect electricity since it’s one of the things that actually can kill me on an inspection.

On this day, a large ladder was lying on its side underneath the panel, with some flat trim boards stacked on top of the ladder edge. They weren’t stacked precariously or in the way. It was easy to work around them. For some reason, I decided to place the panel cover on top of these boards instead of resting it on the ground in front of the ladder. At that point, the voice of my inner inspector said to me, “What are you doing, you dummy? You know better … it’s not safe. Just place it on the ground in front of the ladder.” But, I thought, “Don’t tell me what to do, I’ve been doing this since 1997 with thousands of inspections under my belt and I know what I’m doing. What are you, my mother?” Mind you, all of this took place in a nanosecond.

The next nanosecond had me shaking in my boots as I considered a new career. As I had turned to pick up my infrared camera to scan the inside of the panel, the cover slid off the ladder to the left and into the panel. It hit the back, energized portion, exploded and shot halfway across the garage floor. Had I not bent over, the cover would have, at the least, blown into me, or somehow made contact with me when it was energized. I shudder when I consider what might have happened.

Had I listened to my inner inspector voice, the whole thing could have been averted. It warned me, but I chose to ignore my own common sense. Whether that inner voice is encouraging you to look a little farther into the attic, check behind that dresser or place the panel cover on the ground, it’s to be trusted. No matter how innocent or dangerous the situation, that inner voice is an asset we should heed. Considering the hazards we’re exposed to daily, we need all the help we can get.